Posted by: Jo | September 22, 2022

Our Refuge In the Storm

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm.”

(Isaiah 25:8)

When I was a young mother, my husband was working on a remote island in the Pacific and I and my three little girls went with him. It was a 2-year term, but my youngest a 3-year-old, became ill and needed an operation on her tonsils, so we had to get back to Australia to a hospital, so I boarded a cargo boat, the only means of transport, with the three little girls, my husband had to stay to work so we headed back on a 10-day trip. Halfway through the journey the captain announced we were heading into a hurricane there was no land in sight, so he had a list of precautions all the passengers had to follow. Stay in our cabins, remove all movable objects off dressing tables, secure suitcases, wedge chairs under children bunks to keep them from rolling out. The storm was to hit at nightfall. My first thoughts were that my husband was going to lose all his family in one terrible night. It was a terrifying night, but God proved to be our refuge. No, he didn’t stop the storm, but he brought us all safely through it. Day break saw the wind drop, the huge waves die down, he had kept us safe. 

God knew his children would always need refuge and in the book of Numbers we read that right from the beginning he told the children of Israel to set aside towns of refuge if people needed somewhere to escape. 

“Six of the towns you give to the Levites will be cities of refuge…” (Numbers 35: 6)

He also asks us to offer help to foreigners and to those who need help, a refuge for those who have nowhere to go. 

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10: 18)

One of my friends is doing just that. We have all viewed with horror the war raging in Ukraine and seeing hundreds of poor fleeing from their country to other countries, desperately needing a refuge to escape to. My friend is providing a refuge for 3 Ukrainian young women by taking them into her own home, giving then food and shelter. She is living God’s word 

Sometimes the refuge needed is a quiet place to share worries, grief, storms of emotional turmoil, the Lord knew this and urged his followers to be hospitable, even inviting a friend facing one of these storms, to coffee, a meal, or a walk in a tranquil place. In this way, the troubled friend has refuge in sharing with a comforting friend. Loneliness is a big problem in our cities where seniors sit alone in small apartments, an invitation to a family dinner provides a refuge for that person. 

Whatever the storm we are facing the Lord is always ready to be our refuge. 

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9: 9)

Posted by: Jo | August 28, 2022

Nurturing Our Relationship

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

(James 4:8)

I have always loved gardening, but now I live in an apartment and have transitioned to growing plants on my balcony and house plants inside. It still requires a lot of tender loving care from me to help them to bloom and grow to their full beauty, carefully watering them seeing enough sunlight reaches them, removing dead flowers. I feel it is like having a relationship with them. Human relationships also need a lot of tender care to help them to grow to deep understanding of each other and a close loving friend is a wonderful asset in life

“A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17: 17)

Proverbs tells us how important friendship is and when it says all times, it implies that when times are rough a true friend loves through thick and thin.

The most beautiful relationship offered to believers is the one with the Heavenly Father. Jesus tells his disciples and of course us as well, is the way he sees us as friends.”

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from the Father, I have made known to you.” (John 15: 15)

To become a true friend of Jesus we need to nurture our friendship with him, and it is like nurturing our human friendships. We need to spend time with him, we need to share our inmost thoughts, our fears, our joys our hopes. Just as we do with our friends. We need to set aside time just to be with him, not sorry. Lord too busy to talk this week. If we did that with friends our friendship would be very hollow. Part of true friendship is listening to our friends, and we often forget that the Lord also wants to talk to us, he is often pictured as a gardener lovingly looking after us his vine. Just like I need to break off the dead flowers so my plants will continue to bloom, sometimes between deep friends, one needs to point out something in our lives that is hindering us living full lives

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27: 6)

This is another reason we need to be in close contact with our Heavenly Father. Sometimes he needs to point out to us what is hindering our spiritual lives and distancing him. He speaks to us in different ways, a verse will alert us, a sermon wakes us up to what is dragging us down. Our loving Lord is always willing to listen when we confess what is happening and willing to forgive us and suddenly, we come close to him, and he comes close to us again.

Setting time aside every day to pray and to read his word, safeguards our precious friendship.

Posted by: Jo | August 5, 2022

God Answers Differently

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

(Romans 8: 26)

Just recently I was chatting with a friend who still lives in her big house, by herself, with a beautiful garden. Her mobility is not good and is now forced to use a walker to always get around. She loves her garden, but it is now the middle of summer and very hot. Her dilemma she was sharing with me was that she needed to turn on the sprinkler and set it up and nobody was there to help her. When she told me she was going to do it I was quite frightened for her and said I will pray for you to keep safe. So, I immediately began to pray for her while she was still on the phone. I asked God to hold on to her and not let her fall and to keep her safe. Later that day she phoned to tell me what had happened. When she got to the sprinkler it was turned the wrong way and she could not move it, feeling very depressed she sat in her walker to rest, just at that moment a male friend, an avid fisherman walked through the garden unexpectedly bringing her some salmon. Problem solved of course he could easily turn the sprinkler. I was so grateful to God and then began to think through my prayer. I had asked God for help, but the whole prayer was telling God how to do it. He had a better idea. Of course God wants us to come to him in times of trouble, but we learn God’s way to solve the problem is so much better than ours. 

Paul emphasizes this truth in his letter to the Ephesians 

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3: 20)

There are many stories in the Bible where the Lord acts to answer his people’s prayers in startling and unexpected ways. One of my favorites is the Gideon story (I loved to tell it when I was teaching Sunday school). It is found in the book of Judges, the exciting ending in Judges 7.

God’s people had called out to him to save them from the Midianites. God does hear them, but he chooses a very different way than they would have imagined. First, he chooses the weakest member of the weakest tribe to lead the army. Next, he tells Gideon to take a small number of men then in another surprising turn no weapons only trumpets and jars to break to make a lot of noise when darkness fell. 

“They blew their trumpets and broke the jars they had in their hands. Grasping the torches they had in their left hand and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and a sword for Gideon.” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran crying out as they fled.” (Judges 7: 20 – 21)

Let us come before the Father boldly asking him to help and being amazed at his response.

Posted by: Jo | July 31, 2022

Power of the Holy Spirit

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing like a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

(Acts 2: 1 – 3)

I was gazing out my living room window at a big shade tree just outside on the street and noticed the leaves begin to sway with a gentle breeze and the leaves seemed to be dancing to some tune. I have always been fascinated by the wind and started to think back to my childhood on the East Coast of Australia. We lived not far from the beach and all of us children were familiar with watching huge waves crashing on the sand, as the wind whipped up the water and of course eager surfers heading out to ride them, but the wind I remembered the most was called by the locals, a Southerly Buster.  It was a volent unpredictable wind that could do a lot of damage, although the old folk would say they could tell when it was about to hit. It was usually during the summer, and it would be a humid day with no wind and very hot, suddenly what seemed out of nowhere this powerful cold wind would rip through the house slamming doors and sometimes breaking windows. A force to be reckoned with! 

During the story of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is described as a violent wind not bringing disaster like my story, but incredible blessings to all people The Psalmists realized this and noted that God used the wind as his messengers. 

“He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” (Psalm 104: 4)

The wonderful gift Jesus gave to all believers was the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell with us. What an incredible gift when we realize that with that gift comes his incredible power.  After Jesus rose from the dead, he gave his disciples and us believers this very Spirit to live with us. 

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”” (John 20: 21 – 22)

We must invite the Holy Spirit to make his presence felt in our lives and take advantage of his amazing power. Not to rely on our own strength but to acknowledge him in everything we do. We just must look at the character of God to be aware that he can be a fortress for us to run to a rock to lean on, a guide when we lose our way, a constant companion. We sing a lovely song at our church with a good message for us to sing to the Holy Spirit 

Holy Spirit you are welcome here

Posted by: Jo | June 30, 2022

A Grandmother’s Prayer

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am now persuaded lives in you, also.”

(2 Timothy 1: 5)

This verse is a very comforting one for me, as I am now an old grandmother who would want nothing more than that all my darlings would know and follow Jesus Christ. As a young mother I loved my role of caring and protecting my little ones, but now that I am old that is impossible for me to do physically, but Scripture assures me I can still pass on my faith and tells me even when we are older we can still bear fruit for the Lord, in fact Psalm 92 has a beautiful passage describing getting old for those who follow the Lord will be like flourishing palm trees that continue to bear fruit 

“Planted in the house of the Lord they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will bear fruit in old age they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, the Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psalm 92: 13 – 15)

Scripture often describes God’s love seen in nature as like a hen covering her little chicks with her feathers to keep them safe 

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will be safe.” (Psalm 91: 4)

I can no longer protect my loved ones by my physical strength, but I have discovered I have a much greater power than physical strength, I can cover them with prayer leaving them in the powerful protection of the Heavenly Father. As we grow older, we have more time on our hands and I have learnt not to think of myself as useless, but to use that time in prayer.  Having time to talk to the Father, is one of the advantages of being old and I look forward to my prayer time as the most important thing I do. I tell my family I pray for them and they in turn tell me of major events happening in their lives and ask me to pray for them and thank me when they feel His Presence during difficult experiences. I also share Scripture with them to help them through. One of my favourites is this one 

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26: 3)

Of course, we don’t only pray for our loved ones, most churches have prayer chains so members can phone in their needs and others can pray for them. Again, we old people have time on our side and the joy of praying for others is very rewarding. 

We don’t always see the result of our prayers, but others will and be encouraged. When I think of Paul remarking on the faith of a grandmother and a mother resulting in young Timothy becoming a passionate evangelist for Jesus Christ and nurturing new believers, it makes me more eager to bear fruit like that for the Lord.

Posted by: Jo | June 7, 2022

Instant Access

“The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.”

(Psalm 6: 9)

I know this age of everything being conducted through the internet is amazing, but it is also very frustrating when telephone calls are always answered by what sounds like robots. It doesn’t let you say one word but launches into a long spiel. Abruptly followed by commands to push 1 for this, or 2 for something else and not one option suits what I want to ask. I want to shout my request at these remote voices but that doesn’t help. The other response equally annoying is the same hardly human voice tells you to hold and your call will be taken shortly, and a burst of music assails your ears every now and then interrupted by the same voice repeating please hold someone will be with you soon and again music fills the air. 

I was thinking about this problem when I was reading Psalm 6 where David has quite a different experience when calling to his Heavenly Father, instant access!! He is not told to wait until someone is available, he is flooded with an incredible feeling of peace because he knows he has been heard. Even in our human contacts finding a friend who you know is actually listening to you is such a blessing when often we feel others are not really hearing what we are saying. 

The other amazing thing about prayer is we don’t need that phone or computer to reach our Heavenly Father, he is listening always wherever we are/ walking outside/ in a crowded store/ on the bus never telling us to hold until he has time to listen to us, in fact Paul tells us to pray all the time, keep the Lord up to date with our joys and all our cares we want to share with him, thank him for his love for us, every parent loves to hear those words from a child. 

“Be joyful always. Pray constantly.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 17)

The other problem I have phoning, is that I often hesitate to make the call. I don’t want to bother the doctor about that problem/ perhaps this is a bad time for my friend/ I don’t want to admit to anyone that I am depressed about something. The amazing joy it is to talk to the Lord is that we are encouraged to come to him with confidence some versions in Scripture tell us to come boldly, nothing is not important that might be worrying us he wants to hear from us. We will not be turned away. 

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in out time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16)

Next time you are frustrated in making that call remember we have instant access to the Heavenly Father and praise him for the relief of knowing he is always there.

Posted by: Jo | May 15, 2022

The Seal Of Ownership

“Now it is God who makes us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

(2 Corinthians 1: 21 – 22)

I was putting on my socks the other day when I noticed the name of the makers emblazoned along the side, and I was reminded of how many articles of clothing that have the name of the manufacture written somewhere on them. Nowadays it seems to be the custom to wear an expensive tee shirt etc. with an important name to let everyone know how expensive the article is and create envy in all those who see it, marveling at what good taste you have or how wealthy you are according to the name displayed. We still use seals or stamps to signify the importance and truth on documents e.g., University certificates need the seal of the university, or they are not authentic. In ancient times kings had their own rings and if an edict was to be sent out the king would seal it by stamping it with his ring. 

So, what does it mean for us to have the seal of ownership applied to us? When we think deeply of the incredible privilege of having been marked as one of the Heavenly Father’s own precious children it is overwhelming, but it also means a great responsibility on our part. Just the same for when we buy that expensive piece of clothing, we expect it to live up to its name and are very disappointed if it doesn’t, we want to honor the name we bear, by our actions that glorify him. Jesus speaks these words to his disciples 

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6: 27)

When Paul is writing to the Ephesian church, he reminds them again of the wonderful privilege it is to belong to the Heavenly Father 

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1: 13 – 14)

Sometimes in our present-day culture, people are marked and then discriminated against by the color of their skin, or by their race or where they rate in importance, but the wonderful releasing news we are reading in God’s word, is when we are marked by the seal of the Holy Spirit we are new creatures. His name is emblazoned on us, no matter who we are, we have a new identity we belong to the Heavenly Father and each one of us is a precious child. 

Posted by: Jo | April 24, 2022

Not Counting The Cost

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

(Matthew 13: 44)

Jesus was telling this parable to his disciples who at first were bewildered why so much of his teaching to the crowds was in the form of parables, but he was really teaching his followers that the cost of entering the kingdom of heaven and becoming a citizen did come with a cost. In the book of Proverbs, we read 

“Wisdom is supreme, therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4: 7)

Wisdom is understanding we worship a mighty God and following his commands is worth every effort we put into it, in fact it is the life the Heavenly Father designed for us to live, in the same chapter of Proverbs we read, 

“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go. Guard it well for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4: 13)

Following Jesus brings us great joy and knowing the Holy Spirit dwells with us, surrounding us with love and compassion gives us the courage and strength to survive whatever problems arise in our lives, but we owe it to our Savior. Sometimes we feel that cost when we struggle to follow all the commands that we know will please the Heavenly Father and enrich our lives and others around us. Loving your neighbour is not always easy and even putting up let alone loving that annoying fellow worker is difficult to do. Living with others, poses all sorts of problems, and sometimes we want to cry out to God and say surely you don’t expect me to love that cranky old lady who lives on our street and never has a kind word to say about anybody, but the surprising thing I have discovered the longer I walk with Jesus is the overwhelming benefit I have received by not thinking of myself first and loving the unlovable.

Just recently I had a falling out with a friend over different opinions and felt our friendship needed to end and vowed not to call her again, but just after that, after my prayer time in the morning, I felt the Lord urging me to reconsider and apologize to her and to listen to her without condemning, after I had called her I was filled with a beautiful feeling of peace and my angry thoughts disappeared leaving me to enjoy my days again without ugly thoughts spoiling the day 

The commands of God are not to restrict us, but they are designed to give us life. In Proverbs 4: 13 we are told to hold on to instruction and that is what God’s word is. God has designed us to walk in his footsteps and when we follow his instructions we are on the right path of life and just like the man in the parable who did not count the cost, we find what a treasure it is being one of God’s precious children. 

Posted by: Jo | March 31, 2022

Images Of God

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete us.”

(1 John: 4: 12)

It is very hard to imagine someone you have never seen, but technology has spoilt us through Zoom and Microsoft Team but our Heavenly Father really wanted his children to know him intimately and his word is filled with images we can understand so we can grasp who our awesome God is. His images often use animals and birds, creatures we are familiar with to show his love for us. 

“He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge….” (Psalm 91: 4)

When my husband and I were younger we had a cottage on a lake and one of my favourite sights was the regal Loon who visited us every Spring to the same nest to raise her little ones. When they were hatched and still small, they would ride on her back but the act that I loved to watch, was if anything appeared on the lake a strange bird or a boat, she would raise her wings cover her chicks hide them and they were protected from any danger. What a beautiful image for us to think of when we need a refuge from what is swirling around us. 

A father figure is another image we can understand and relate to 

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3: 17)

One night when my first born was a little baby we were having one of those nights when she would not sleep, but was constantly crying, my husband took over and the image reminded me of this verse. He snuggled her against his chest rocked her and sang softly over her. It worked she fell asleep!  Imagine the Creator of the universe singing over us and calming our fears. 

Our Father is also a powerful figure, and this is another aspect of him he wants us to know. He can defend and is protecting us. He is a King greater than any earthly king; he can bring peace into our lives he is the Prince of Peace. 

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would bring the images of God to earthly vision 

“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9: 6)

The Psalmists had many descriptions of God as a Mighty Warrior and at the same time he was called our Refuge, a place to hide when trouble surrounded us a Fortress that can withstand any attacks. 

Realizing we are loved by a many faceted God, gives us great confidence that we have a Loving Father who loves us and protects us as we hand our lives over to him to direct our paths. 

Posted by: Jo | March 3, 2022

Yes!! You Can!

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”

(Philippians 4: 13)

I have been watching an advertisement that comes across my television, usually interrupting the news, but it started to grab my attention when I heard what a lot of the young people were saying, ”I can’t do that” and then in huge letters, 

Yes!! You Can!

I am not sure what the advertisement was aiming at, but the underlying message was clear if you think positive work hard you will achieve what you want to. This is a false idea. Life does not always plan out by our own efforts. Paul gives us believers a different message in his letter to the Philippians. He has learnt that his own efforts might be paltry, but God will give us all strength to perform his good works he has planned for us. God has given us all gifts, different ones for different people. In the book of Romans Paul tells us we all have gifts even though they differ from others 

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us…” (Romans 12: 6)

The Old Testament has fascinating stories of humans arguing with God that they cannot do the job God has chosen for them Moses is horrified when God tells him to speak 

“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3: 12)

God answers, I will be with you and although Moses argues longer with God, we know how the children of Israel were freed from Egypt. God was with them! 

Again, we have the story of Gideon, a member of one of the smaller tribes who is so afraid of the enemies he was hiding inside to do the threshing in case he was seen. An angel comes to him and calls him an astounding name for Gideon to hear 

“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”” (Judges 6: 12)

Gideon is astonished at being called this and argues with the Lord and even puts God to the test, but with the help of the Lord this timid man leads the army to victory. Good story to read in Joshua 6.

Again, the mighty prophet, Jeremiah, is chosen by God but he too argues with God that he is too young 

““Ah Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”” (Jeremiah 1: 6)

With the strength God provided he went on to be an amazing prophet for the Lord 

These are wonderful stories to encourage us to face the challenges of life. The Lord has promised to never forsake us (Joshua 1: 5).

We all have gifts that we can use with the strength of the Holy Spirit to help us shine as true disciples of Jesus Christ and if we feel the Lord calling us to achieve something to further his kingdom and feel inadequate remember he will give us the strength to do it. 

We sing a beautiful song at our church that gives me the strength to keep going.

The joy of the Lord gives me strength

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